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PRESS PHOTO BY BUD COLE Pennsylvania designated white-tailed deer as the official state animal in 1959. PRESS PHOTO BY BUD COLE Pennsylvania designated white-tailed deer as the official state animal in 1959.

Deer and motor vehicles a deadly mix

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 by BUD COLE Special to The Press in Focus

Most outdoors-oriented individuals have accidently startled a white-tailed deer from its bedding or feeding area while he or she is out hiking or participating in other Keystone State outdoors activities.

If you did not see the deer fleeing from sight, you've probably seen the deer's white tail flashing in the distance. The tail is raised and waved as a deer runs and the tail is also flashed by the deer as a warning when danger is sensed.

The dominant female in a herd of deer often flicks her tail first when she recognizes that something is out of the ordinary. Her tail signal alerts the other deer to be watchful and cautious.

The Pennsylvania firearms deer season opened Nov. 26 and deer have been moving more while hunters search Penn's Woods with the goal of filling their winter larders with venison. This is also the time of year called "the rut" when the males (bucks) and females (doe) breed.

Females are in heat and the bucks often toss caution to the wind as they try to breed with as many doe as possible. Fights often occur when the dominant bucks in an area use their antlers as weapons in jousts against younger bucks to chase them away.

Pennsylvania designated the white-tailed deer as the official state animal in 1959. The white-tailed deer gets its name from the white underside of its tail.

There is more movement of deer during this time than any other time of the year, which can translate to more highway deer incidents with vehicles.

State Farm Insurance Company released a chart projecting the number of deer-vehicle collisions for 2011 - 2012 for states with large deer populations.

Pennsylvania topped the list with 115,571 deer-vehicle collisions a year, followed by Michigan with 97,856.

The Top 10 includes New York, 80,262; Ohio, 67,699; Wisconsin, 52,525; Virginia, 52,369; Illinois, 51,627; North Carolina, 48,362; Texas, 45,418; and Georgia, 42,996. Half of annual highway deer mortalities in the United States occurred in these 10 states.

On a recent roundtrip from the Lehigh Valley to Erie for steelhead fishing, I counted more than 40 road killed deer, including remnant stains of deer hit by tractor trailers.

The peak for deer and vehicle collisions is October and November during the rut. The higher totals usually don't slow down until mid-December.

It is wise for motorists, especially at this time of the year, to slow down after sunset and before sunrise to lessen the chances of hitting a deer.

"Driving defensively, or at the very least, alertly, can give a motorist an edge in many instances," says Carl Roe, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director.

"The personal tragedies and property losses that are caused by deer-vehicle collisions touch the lives of Pennsylvanians statewide. It's an unfortunate and often painful consequence of living with white-tailed deer," Roe says.

Deer often travel in family groups in single file. Be alert for the possibility of more deer crossing the highway if you have witnessed one deer traveling across the road. There might be several more following the one you observe. With the ending of Daylight Savings Time, more people are traveling after dark. This factor also contributes to the deer-vehicle collision totals.

Tips which may help drivers lessen their chances of hitting a deer include watching for the reflection of a deer's eyes or its silhouette along the shoulders of the road, slowing down in areas with large deer populations and in areas where roads separate agricultural fields from forestland and slowing down at dusk and dawn when deer are more active and visibility is limited.

Don't count on deer whistles or other devices designed to warn deer. Slow down or stop with care if deer are on the shoulder or in the roadway. It is not wise to try to drive around them in the other lane. Please be careful when your see the white-deer waving their "white flag."

That's the way I see it!

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© 2012 Bud Cole